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First night in New Orleans

My husband and I are going to NO in April for the first time ever. We're mid thirties (though we hate to admit it), have no children and love to hang out in bars, listen to live music (he's a musician), and eat while on vacation.

What are your recommendations for our first night out (a Saturday)? We are staying at Magazine and Canal and will not be driving. I'd love to start our trip out with a really memorable night of food/drink/and music (i.e. a true NO experience) without having to spend time wandering around with no real plan.

We prefer fun non-pretentious spots that focus on the food more than the decor. Live music is always a plus - but we are happy to move to a music spot afterward. We love spicy food, seafood, burgers - no true dislikes except that we hate wasting time with average quality food or chain restaurants that are available across the US.

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

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  1. I'd suggest going to Frenchman St. in the Marigny for live music the first night. Music in the Quarter can be touristy, but the Marigny, which is on the other side of the Quarter from where you'll be staying, is more local and more funky. For music I enjoy d.b.a. and Cafe Brazil, which are about a block from one another. Check a Gambit Weekly, Offbeat, or Times Picayune "Lagniappe" of Living section for listings. Your concierge can help you, or better yet, just approach someone who looks too hip to be a tourist, and ask him or her what's good for the next few days. If you find yourself walking on Frenchman after 11, though, you can let your ears make your decision for you, since there will be music streaming out of clubs.

    I'm a little less knowledgeable about food in this immediate area, especially food on the casual side. The best restaurants downtown are more upscale, and a few of the popular casual places are tourist traps. I've heard Coop's Place on Decatur (which would be on your way to the Marigny) is a delicious, divey option on the quarter.

    For subsequent nights, you may want to go farther afield. Live music thrives Uptown at the Maple Leaf and Tipitina's, and in Mid-City at Rock 'n' Bowl. There are great, cheap restaurants near each of those clubs. Closer to your hotel, and for a little more polished experience, the Ritz Carlton on Canal has live acts that are usually very good. You're also on the fringe of the Warehouse District, which has music venues like the Howlin' Wolf, and funky bars like Lucy's.

    2 Replies
    1. re: HalfShell

      I agree with Halfshell, check offbeat.com for the music listings. You are right by the streetcar so you could even make it up to Carrollton Station depending on who is playing there, and it's a few blocks from the Maple Leaf and jacque imos.
      If you stay down in the Marigny, a good place to grab a drink and a decent bite to eat is 13, they serve bar food but it's good bar food.

      1. re: HalfShell

        I'd head on down to Frenchmen for good music. Not exactly walking distance, since it's behind the FQ, but not impossibly far either. Definitely well within cab distance. Some of the other suggestions are Uptown which is at least a 10-15 minute cab ride so be prepared. If you're willing though, I would def second Tip's and the Maple Leaf. Foodwise, I've always liked Coop's. Nothing special, just good, divey-bar-in-the-neighborhood stuff. For late night eating, Mimi's in the Marigny has great tapas options.

      2. Please keep the focus here on great chow - if great music can be found with great chow, that's fine, but discussions of music per se are off topic for our boards.

        Thanks!

        10 Replies
        1. re: The Chowhound Team

          While I will do my best to respect the mod's wishes, if you can post the dates of your trip, Heather, we can try to make food recommendation that just happen to be near great music on the nights you're in town.

          1. re: Blumie

            Great music tips - Frenchman looks like a good bet. If we walked through the Quarter with Frenchman as a final destination, what would folks recommend for a food stop (or stops) along the way? Our first night will be April 12 staying through the 19th.

            Thanks again!

            1. re: tastyheather

              For a really authentic street experience, just wait for the food trucks to set up on Frenchman late at night. Great chicken wings, bbq and burgers made by locals and the prices can't be beat!

              And for the record, "wandering around with no real plan" is de rigueur for tourists and locals alike. Half the fun is in finding the fun.

              1. re: tastyheather

                In addition to the music on Frenchman St, the dining there is also first rate. Two of my favourite N.O. restaurants, Adolfo's and Marigny Brasserie are there. Adolfo's is upstairs from the Apple Barrel where Coco Robicheaux plays on Saturday nights.

                In the New Orleans tradition of stopping off for a snack on the way to dinner, on the way from Canal St to the Marigny, you could grab some oysters from either Acme or Felix's, some gumbo from The Gumbo Shop, or a bowl of Jambalaya at Coop's.

                April is a great time to go; the weather should not yet be too steamy for long walks and exploring.

                You have no idea just how much I envy anyone making their first visit to New Orleans. Take in every sight, smell, sound, and taste that you can. This trip will stay with you forever.

                1. re: tastyheather

                  Tuesday night of your stay, I would suggest a late dinner at Jacques-Imo's followed by Rebirth Brass Band next door at the Maple Leaf. Rebirth plays every tuesday at Maple Leaf.

                  1. re: Shiloh

                    Is the Jacques-Imo's every speaks to the one in Uptown around from Brigtsen's?

                    1. re: jfood

                      Jacques-Imo's and Brightsen's are in the same part of town, but not very close. They're maybe a mile apart or so. You may be thinking of Dante's Kitchen, which is right across the street from Brigtsen's.

                      Edit: I take that back. I misjudged the distance. Jacques-Imo's is only about five blocks away from Brigtsen's. Less than a half mile. Jacques-Imo's is on Oak.

                      1. re: Shiloh

                        gotit. dantes and B right across from each other on dante. then go north on carrolton to imo's street. jfood was confused because he read so much about it then drove there last time in NOLA for the music next store, saw the JI sign and said, "is that it?"

                  2. re: tastyheather

                    You'll be there for the French Quarter Festival! You'll be able to hear some great music AND try food from a lot of the resaturants. It's a great opportunity to try a small-ish portion of something and if you like it, try out the reataurant!

                    1. re: CEfromLA

                      The Palm Court Cafe (I hope it reopened as I left New Orleans 18 months ago), has traditional jazz and fairly good food - I lived by it and went all the time.

              2. We had our first trip to NOLA last month. Spent a quick 2 1/2 days looking, searching, trying to decide WHERE to go! So many choices! We're headed back in May for what hopefully will be a more exciting taste testing time~and we're bringing more people who have NEVER been there! (Daughter's wedding. They were there 6 years ago, fell in love with the FOOD, music, and local. They decided they HAD to get married there!) So chowhound has been great research material if only we had more time to try all the wonderful places recommended! I agree with the one post to steer away from chain food type places that can be found anywhere in the US. We always try something new that is why NO is so exciting! So we will do some of the touristy places but have a list we found here on chowhound to try! Thanks!

                1. Someone mentioned Coop's for a snack before dinner and that sounds like a great recommendation. Split a bowl of the Jambalaya Supreme and then head to Adolpho's for wonderful italian/seafood. The Jambalaya at Coop's is one of the things I would have as my last meal, wonderfully spicy, chok full of seafood/tasso. Adolpho's is a funky joint in the Marigny. It sits atop the Apple Barrel. It has maybe 12 tables. Old men are the crew. Cheap prices. A place that you would be a regular if you lived there.

                  You guys are gonna love New Orleans. Lots of music on Frenchmen (adolpho's is frenchmen). Preservation Hall is a must stop, they play early in the evening. Le Bon Temp Roule is a great music club. Maple Leaf is a great place. Tipitina's is excellent.

                  1. I'm so excited about my trip!! Thanks to everyone for all of the suggestions . . .

                    Which do you all like most . . . Felix or Acme for oysters?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: tastyheather

                      Acme is good but there is ALWAYS a line. Its probably slightly better than felix's (never eaten at felix) but the wait does make it a hassle. If you have the time it might be worth it. No shame in eating at Felix's if you must.